Everyone loves a zombie game so why not also have a zombie boardgame. However in this game it is not all about mankind standing together and overcoming the undead horde. It is very much every man and women for themselves.
City of Horror follows the tale of a handful of survivors over a 4 hour period. Warning to the noble, hero or all round good guy; there is no chance for you here. City of Horror has no safe havens, no heroes, no justice and no hope. Before we get into the details of the game here is a look at what you get in the box.
7 site tiles
3 road tiles and a water tower area
1 water tower
21 character cards
21 character tokens
1 woman with baby character token
40 zombie tokens
30 coloured bases
36 movement cards
40 action cards
20 invasion cards
6 explosion markers
1 starting player marker
12 food tokens
1 zombie leader marker
3 caches to be used when parties to less than 6 players
6 markers to indicate the colour of the player.
City of Horror starts with 5 different buildings. A church, bank, gun shop, hospital and water tower, with every player placing their survivor in each different location on the board. What this means is one of your characters might end up with the “pregnant woman” and “the chef” who is controlled by the two other people you are playing with. This segregation of characters that you control can be your worst nightmare later when playing the game.
Each turn is represented by a single hour and each hour more zombies join the fray. Zombies are added randomly by the “hour cards” in every building. How do you defend yourself you say? Here’s how, players all get a hand of cards which act as different actions, weapons etc which can help you fight the horde. The problem starts though when your so called “friend” uses a card which attracts all his zombies over to where you are and you’re even more outnumbered. How do you react to this? Should you repay the favour (if you can) and send all your zombies to him? Do you believe what he has to say and that was his only option? Or do you team up with another player and let the other guy fend for himself?
All these are completely normal thoughts because you are now playing City of Horror. The problem you have is now a survivor has to be sacrificed to the zombies for dinner but who will it be? This is where City of Horror can get really interesting as players begin their trades, partnerships and deals which mutually benefit each other while choosing the unwilling sacrifice. You can use your cards, trade cards, trade food or even trade the vaccine which is hard to come back and needed to leave alive at the end.
After all the trading, haggling and bartering the vote begins on who will be eaten alive. Everyone then points out who they choose to lose and it could even be yourself regardless of the trades you have just made. Backstabbing and sabotage are very much a part of City of Horror and sometimes needed to survive. It can also be very fun to see a player who has only one character left offer up all their belongings just to be eaten anyway (as long as it is not you of course). If you are the unlucky one to lose a life on the board your next moves will most likely be how much you can get revenge.
This style of play really adds another dimension to the overall experience. City of Horror is not just about playing by moving pieces around the board and following the mechanics. It has a very human element too it, changing players means changing the whole experience every time you play. This makes replayability very high and an interesting experience every time you whack it out of the box. City of Horror really excels in this human aspect; it makes the game unpredictable and is something video games have yet to grasp. How will your family and friends react when their backs are against a wall and it is you or them?
On the first playthrough, I thought City of Horror would be easy and predicable but boy was I wrong. Within the first hour of game play I had used far too many cards to stay alive and was stranded on my own spread across the board. I was not the only one; the other two guys who were playing did not have much luck. The first round we lost two characters and they just had to go, no reasoning or trading could of saved them (well maybe but I was not wasting my any more cards) so they had to die. The central cross roads are a nightmare, we soon learned to steer clear of that area and by the end of the first hour we were all at each other throats… virtually of course.
The game gets its excitement from the tension which builds slowly until it is unleashed when you least expect it, normally when your “friends” turn their backs on you. You will usually find yourself either laughing because someone else is about to lose a character or will be frantically shouting as you try to save your own.
Every moment you play requires talking to the other players and it is normally your last chance discussions which will affect your personal outcome. The game has to be played with 3 people as it mentions on the box. We tried with just two, simulating the third player but the poor guy got wrecked as there were no proper discussions between 3 different parties.
When all hope is lost there might be a way to save your characters. All your characters have two sides to them which have a one use power. For example, when used the little girl can hide from zombies, the thief can go into any building even when full and the pregnant woman can have her baby almost on command to grab an extra vote.
When using their powers the value of the characters go down giving you less points at the end of the game. The most valued characters the Old man and the Blondie are actually the hardest characters to keep alive. We won’t spoil it but the Blondie is always interesting to have on your team (no really, she is, honest).
The one part of the board which is 3D is the water tower. Being on the water tower allows all players on it to see which zombies will spawn in the next hour giving them a big advantage against over other players who have no characters on it. With this “power” you can choose to keep it to yourself, trade the information or lie and watch them fall into a trap you set. The building does have its risks though, as if three explosions go off in the game, the tower falls and everyone on it dies.
Overall City of Horror is well crafted and a great experience. You will find your money has gone in the right place with the beautiful pieces and detailed environments. For a game it is terrifying, funny and exciting. The rules are pretty easy to get a grasp on and have been laid out well in a small leaflet with an info card to help you with little bits of info you will need to keep coming back to.
City of Horror is packed full of play time and with each different player that joins the game, the many different outcomes and experiences you will have because of the human element it bring to it. Be the hero, be the mastermind or be the villain. City of Horror allows the freedom of an apocalypse right in your living room.